Robert Smithson

United States of America  1938–1973

Robert Smithson was born in Passaic, New Jersey, on 2 January 1938. He trained as a painter at the New York Art Students League from 1953–1956, then at the Brooklyn Museum School. His first solo exhibition was held in the Artist’s Gallery, New York. Still a painter, Smithson travelled to Italy in 1961. In 1963 he married the sculptor Nancy Holt and began his sculpting career around 1964. He held six one-person shows in his lifetime, and his writings on aesthetics were published between 1964 and 1972, with the collected writings appearing in 1996. His work is considered seminal in the development of Earth Art (also known as Land Art), a highlight being the construction of the Spiral Jetty 1970 at the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Smithson died in an aeroplane crash with the pilot and a photographer at Amarillo, Texas, on 20 July 1973, while working on his major Land Art piece, Amarillo ramp.

See more works by this artist in the NGA collection

Robert Smithson Rocks and mirror square II 1971 © Robert Smithson. VAGA/Copyright Agency Purchased 1977 Learn more